I was interested to find the recent paper by Roberts and Murray titled, “Equine Nutrition in the USA: A review of perceptions and practices of horse owners and veterinarians,” a paper accepted for publication in the Journal of Equine Veterinary Science (DOI: 10.1016/j.jevs.2014.04.006). This review paper summarizes a series of research studies that have been conducted over the years, investigating the role of nutrition in equine health, the source of nutrition information for horse owners and managers, and the role of the veterinarian in providing nutritional information, along with their perceptions in terms of their education and knowledge of the subject.
The paper highlights studies that have reported numerous cases of nutritional imbalance in equine diets, with overfeeding of digestible energy, protein and dry matter a
common occurrence (particularly as a result of owners overestimating their horse’s work level), while deficiencies in calcium, magnesium, chloride, potassium, iodine and copper being reported in elite performance horses. In another elite performance group, over-supplementation was common.
Other papers were cited that report common nutrition related conditions of horses commonly include gastric ulcers, joint problems, colic and metabolic/endocrine diseases.
Roberts and Murray also review surveys that have demonstrated the reliance on veterinarians for horse owner’s nutritional advice (more than 80 per cent), with a much smaller subset using their farrier, websites, magazines, educational courses, or seeking the advice from a nutritionist. Owners did indicate a strong desire to learn more about equine nutrition themselves, through short publications or seminars.
Meanwhile, veterinarians appear to be less knowledgeable about equine nutrition, and many report that they use or would use an equine nutritionist for referral nutrition services when available. Surveys of veterinarians in the USA, report that their nutritional education was “inadequate” or “inferior,” and that there were few opportunities for continuing education in these areas.
Roberts and Murray concluded that owners appear to be aware of the impact of nutrition on health, but often fall short in terms of feeding their horses to meet requirements. Equine nutrition education for veterinarians is important and appears to be lacking, but advice may also be provided by nutrition professionals.